WASHINGTON Ñ Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. national and Israeli intelligence agent who has spent nearly 18 years in
prison, was brought to U.S. District Court in Washington on Tuesday to appeal his life sentence.
His attorney is seeking access to a secret 1987 memorandum by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in order to formulate the appeal.
It was Pollard's first court appearance in 16 years.
Pollard's request for an appeal of his sentence has been pending since
2000. Three appeals to see the secret government file on Pollard
have been rejected, Middle East Newsline reported.
The 90-minute hearing before Chief Judge
Thomas Hogan heard arguments by Pollard's attorney to open a secret
government file as part of an effort to appeal Pollard's life sentence.
Attorney Eliot Lauer asked the court for access to a 1987 letter from
Weinberger that outlined the damage caused by
the relay of naval intelligence by Pollard to Israel. The 46-page Weinberger
memorandum, which was never released, was said to have contained such
allegations that Pollard provided Israel with diagrams of the PLO
headquarters in Tunis, details of Soviet weapons exports to Syria, Libyan
air defenses, and weapons of mass destruction programs of several Arab
states and Pakistan.
Lauer argued that access to Pollard's secret file would allow the
defense to counter the government's claim that Pollard, now 47, caused
tremendous damage to U.S. national security. Pollard's supporters, including
those in Congress, said the Weinberger memorandum has been discredited after
States captured and prosecuted CIA agents who had relayed secrets to the
former Soviet Union.
"At the same time the government is arguing that the file is not
relevant, government attorneys are looking at the same file," Lauer said,
referring to a government document that 25 U.S. government employees have
reviewed the Pollard file between 1993 and 2000.
The packed courtroom included one member of the House of
Representatives. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, has asserted that
Pollard was sentenced to life based on an intelligence assessment that
Pollard, who served as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S.
Navy, was arrested in 1985 and charged with relaying thousands of
intelligence documents to Israel during the previous two years. He pleaded
guilty to one count of espionage and despite a plea bargain with the Justice
Department was sentenced to the maximum life in prison.
For a decade, Israel denied any official connection to Pollard, saying
he was working for a rogue espionage operation in the United States. But in
1995, in a move that acknowledged its connection to the agent, Israel
granted Pollard citizenship.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton pledged to release Pollard as part of
U.S.-sponsored deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But
Clinton withdrew his commitment when CIA director George Tenet threatened to
Israeli officials dismissed the prospect that Pollard would be released.
They said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused to launch a public effort
to win Pollard's release on grounds that it would damage Israeli-U.S.
"Successive Israeli governments always diverted anybody who wanted to
work for him and said that only a quiet campaign would be effective,"
Israeli parliamentarian Gilead Erdan said. "We have decided to launch an